Serving Up Support
In September, the Bethel women’s volleyball team hosted a benefit for their “pint-sized” player, Lily Strang. With the gym decked out for Strang’s birthday, which was the next day, they took donations at the gate instead of charging admission. The other players decorated her locker, too, and presented her with gifts. As she stepped on the court with her team, a roar of applause filled the gym.
Head Coach Kevin Ulmer was overwhelmed by the response. “When a regular game costs 5 bucks a person, people paid 40,” he says. “The Grace team even showed up with a present for Lily and a donation without us having to ask.”
Strang suffers from Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic disease that mainly affects bone marrow and results in decreased production of all types of blood cells. She was diagnosed in May 2008 at just 18 months old. As a result of the illness, she was born without thumbs and was bullied in school by the other kids.
Bethel “signed” the spunky 7-year-old this past April, through Team Impact. It’s an organization that pairs up athletic teams with children who have debilitating diseases to give them social support and encouragement. As a member of the team, Strang is able to sit on the bench during games, hold the official game ball, interact with the girls before and after games, and participate in off-campus activities coordinated by the players.
“Having Lily on our team has given us an opportunity to love on an amazing girl and just have fun with her so she can feel like a normal kid that has some special friends and teammates,” says Christina Welch ’15.
Recently, pre-leukemia cells were detected in Strang during a routine bone marrow biopsy. To attack them, she had to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, followed by up to a year of isolation. That’s why her fellow players held the benefit for Strang — to show their support and help raise funds for her medical needs. And though Strang won’t be able to attend any more games this fall, her team will be rooting (and praying) for her to get well, and staying up to date through her page Facebook.com/1000CranesForLily.